Tonight marks the eighth night that I’ve been aroused from deep sleep by some sort of skittering creature. A few times there have been ants in my hair, or fleas hopping across my face, and on one occasion, I even found a cockroach in my hand. I can normally tolerate insects with ease, but I draw the line when I found a spider crawling out of my cleavage tonight.
I really need to find a new place to rest, somewhere not an actual dump, with doors, carpet, and maybe even a bed.
I will not lie, more frequently I begin to wonder if I should return to the Underworld, where I have a purpose, where I have something other than a tarp over my head. But I know, nothing is left for me there. Nothing but ghosts.
This job-hunting business is slower than waiting for mortals to die from old age. But, despite the occasional bout of doubt, I do believe I am starting to understand how to use this computer thing. I even applied to a few more daycare positions today. One of them I almost didn’t consider because I nearly mistook it for a cafe. To my surprise, it appears to be both: a cafe and a daycare. I’ve never understood mortals’ obsession with coffee, and I don’t quite understand how coffee and children go together, but I applied nonetheless.
Hopefully, I hear back soon before I find something worse slithering across me in the night. Until then, I still need to find a way to sleep at night without these puny creatures running all over me.
I sit up tall under the tarp and light my single candle—I’ll need to find more soon, before this one burns out. Almost instantly, the flame attracts the attention of a moth, its wings fluttering audibly so close to my face.
“Do you have dreams, sweet creature?” I ask.
There is no answer. Instead, the beautiful insect keeps fluttering, drawing nearer and nearer to its doom.
“Or perhaps you know only nightmares.”
I cast my eyes to the pavement beneath the cardboard and newspaper I’m perched atop, just before the moth singes itself in the flame. All creatures must die, especially simple-minded ones that don’t understand their own limits.
My gaze follows the shadows beneath the dumpster, searching for anything that skitters and scurries in the dark.
“Where did you go, my eight-legged friend?” A smile creeps up my cheeks. “I’d like to play.”
Ever so delicately, I lift up the edge of a sheet of newspaper, revealing eight shiny, sleek legs, a thick body, and two fangs that rubbed against each other. The spider was no bigger than my thumb, but it held the reckless fearlessness of a hyena.
“There you are,” I cooed, spinning a nightmare like it was my very own web.
I didn’t know what spiders feared, nor what they desired, so I kept it simple. I gave the arachnid a choice: stay perched comfortably on your web with plenty of food, or step forward, into the pond that had replaced my cardboard seat.
The spider twitched, cocking its head in disorientation. One of its legs stretched out, testing the image I had given it.
“Clever girl,” I said grinning, a peculiar sense of pride growing within me for this spider that seemed to be able to see through my nightmares and hallucinations. “But can your small mind fight what’s told to it?”
Without warning, I changed course. Destroying the serene visual of a pond, I replaced it with raging flames. The spider recoiled, leaping back and out of the reach of the fire. It started to cast a new web, one that looked as if it would take it as far away from me and my throne of fire as possible.
A breath of a laugh escaped me, and then the spider stopped.
It turned back toward me cautiously. Yet again, it challenged the nightmare I’d thrust into its mind and it reached a leg forward. When it didn’t burn, it took another step, and another, until the eight-legged creature had reached my knee, and then the wrist that had been resting on my lap.
I brought my hand up to my face and breathed another laugh.
“In all my years as the Goddess of Nightmares and Insanity, I have never once met someone with enough cunning to see through the spells I cast.”
Eye-to-eye now, the spider and I stared back at each other. It crept forward on my hand until its sleepy head nestled my nose.
I smiled deviously. “Oh, I like you. You may stay, Rebel. Perhaps you will make yourself useful in helping me gain control over this space. I know it is not much, but it is mine, and I’d prefer it to be insect-free.”
Rebel seemed to understand, because she scurried back across my hand, her fangs twitching, her head rocking ever so slightly back and forth. I could hear no sound, but I knew that she was performing some kind of call.
Not a second later, hundreds of bugs crawled through the cracks in the earth. They scrambled down the side of the dumpster, they flew in through the small opening the loose tarp offered.
“Hold your breath for a moment!” I demanded. “They are not welcome, they need to leave! This is the opposite of what I wanted—”
But as I finished, every single insect that Rebel had summoned lined themselves at the edges of my modest abode like obedient soldiers. Grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and worms—I didn’t think there was a single creature-of-the-night missing.
Rebel turned back to me, seeming to beam at her handiwork.
I grinned back. “And they’ll stay there?”
She climbed back down my arm, down the side of my dress, and nestled in-line with the others. I blinked at them all for a moment. They were beauties, and somehow managed to bring a sense of hominess to the place, a sense of security.
I blew out the candle and set it back on the cardboard before laying down myself.
“Good night, sweet spider,” I whispered. “You are welcome in my shelter anytime.”
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